...and the curtain closed. What had he just seen? He had sat in a trance for the entire film and now that it had ended he felt like an eternity had passed. He glanced again at the reel canister still set on the table next to the projector.
"Obeah." He read out loud to himself and was surprised by the shock in his voice. He had sat transfixed, unable to move, eyes glued to the screen and yet, other than the distant memory of an emotive and powerful piece of cinema, he could recall very little of what he saw.
He listened for the familiar sound of the audience reaction, but there was none. Silence! Absolute silence! As the curtain closed the audience seemed to have left the theater without making a sound. Not a whisper...not a shout...not even the shuffling of feet. They were gone without a trace. Then there was a footstep.
His attention was pulled away by the sound of a foot step on the first stair leading up to the projector room. A long shadow was cast by whomever was at the foot of the stairs.
"Mr. M?" A happy confident voice called up. It was the familiar voice of Mr. Samael but the shadow that was casting up the spiral staircase was a twisted and deformed and appeared to be writhing in a death throe.
"Mr. M," he said to himself. "That's what they used to call me." His co-workers and friends had called him Mr. M back in another time...another life it seemed. He descended the staircase and the twisted coil of a shadow became the smiling form of Mr. Samael, as usual, straightening his tie and smiling.
"You've done very well," he said.
"A packed house, yes?" the powerful and deep voice of the Obeah Woman said. She seemed to be floating down the long hallway that led to the staircase of the projector room. As she came nearer Mr. M. could see that her eyes were wild with excitement. "You did well son...dey are across now...in da place dey are meant to be...da place these ones chose...da place dey will be...forever."
"Yes...thank you love," Mr. Samael said, seeming to want to end her diatribe.
"Of course Mister...Till da next time yes?" she said. As she walked away she blew Mr. M a kiss and was gone.
She is very happy...very happy indeed," Samael said, emboldening Mr. M with a confidence he thought he felt. "And now my friend, take a rest," he continued in a gentle voice. Then he looked directly into the weary man's eyes and said in a tone that did not match his usual friendly charm. "You still have much to do."
"Yes...thank you, a rest sounds good," Mr. M replied. They parted ways at the foot of the staircase, going opposite directions. There was another premiere to show soon and he headed toward his office for some calm.
His faithful but old and squeaky chair was waiting for him and he settled into it with familiarity and relative comfort. These moments of pause were few and far between lately and he relished in the tranquility of it all. Once again he drifted into memory...
...to the first day...many years earlier...
He sat quietly in what is now his office, but on this day, was the office of the previous owner of the theater and his mentor. The man who hired him all those years ago on that very first day and who was dressed in fine tailored suit that he had always always worn.
"First day is always the toughest," his boss had said as he silently rocked in his office chair. He reached across the desk to remove some papers revealing a nameplate. "O. Nigel" it read. "How did you like it?"
"I loved it!" the young Mr. M answered. "It was such a loud and busy place a moment ago and now it is quiet and peaceful...I like the extremes of it all."
"Yes my lad, yes," Mr. Nigel laughed. "It does have its extremes doesn't it? Like the extreme tidal forces of the ocean, we are in a moment of moderation...the neap tide if you will...the calm before the storm."
"You mean before we run the next picture?" he asked with excitement and anticipation.
"Yes...before YOU run the next picture." Mr. Nigel said heavily emphasizing the word you.
"You!" he repeated again, his bearded mouth smiling sardonically.
Mr. M awoke from his memory... and there...on his desk...right next to his nameplate...was a canister with the next reel. He was saddened by the memory of his first day and the loss of that innocent excitement that he felt. He had to load this new reel the same way he did all those years ago and the excitement of his youth was now replaced with the feeling of being tired and lost. Lost in age, lost in location and lost in spirit. His life had changed immeasurably over the years even though his location had remained the same.
He grabbed the reel and wandered out of the office...lost!